Star comment: Our smart devices need better protection

We think of our computers and phones as being private worlds.

Mobile phone.
Mobile phone.

From smart devices, we can engage with friends and family, manage our daily lives, complete banking and insurance mandates or store information that is private and of value.

Too few of us, however, realise this unpalatable truth: criminals view those same devices as the key to the safe. They know that if they access our electronic devices they can play merry havoc with our lives, plundering hard-earned gains and causing unquantifiable damage.

There was a time when the phrase ‘organised crime’ conjured images of well-built hardmen who drove around in transit vans, wielded baseball bats and guns and were fond of wearing balaclavas. In the modern idiom, organised crime gangs sit in perfectly respectable offices, drink expensive coffee and are surrounded by a bank of computer screens. Nefarious individuals are adequate at luring us into their web, deploying high levels of skill as they overcome the sometimes-flimsy safeguards that many people employ on their smart devices.

High levels of crime find their way to individuals through phones and computers. While the general public might be advised to become better educated about the risks, it is also important that large institutions play a greater role in protecting their customers. Money is at the root of most crimes and so it is unsurprising that banks are frequently targeted by those engaged in phishing scams.

All of us will at some point have received a spam email in which we are promised vast riches if we can only log into a seemingly-innocuous form and divulge our bank details. By the same token, many of us will have received sms messages or phone calls from people seeking to scare or trick us into handing over cash. We will be told that HMRC is chasing us, that the police have an arrest warrant with our name on it.

While we can become worldly wise and shrug off such unpleasant intrusion, the major stakeholders should also do more to make our data more secure. Too often we hear of data breaches that can lead to serious difficulties. Major institutions have a responsibility to smarten up their act.

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